Well today was the day.   My 2-week extensive training regime culminated in my race today.  The day began early (a 7:15am alarm on a Sunday should be outlawed).  Before I had even got out of bed I was cold, which was not a good omen.  It was actually 3 degrees outside, and not the singing group type (another topical reference for the under 40’s  there).  By the time we had arrived at the race we had already travelled through ice, sun and finally fog.  We walked past the lake in Heaton Park to the event village at about 9:00 am and all we could see was, well, nothing.  Just a big patch of fog with the sound of water, which we deduced, must be the lake.

When we arrived at registration I picked up my number, my fetching headband and my chip thing for my shoe for my timing.  I began sussing out the “competition”.  I was looking for the slowest person who I thought I might be able to beat.  There were a few people in fancy dress, lots of ladies with drawn on moustaches (and a few men as well.  Come on.  Man up and grow a proper one), but not many people dressed as bananas or such like.  In fact most looked a bit too keen. There were a lot of people in running tights with isotonic drinks and watches connected to heart monitors and such like.  This could be embarrassing.

There was quite a good atmosphere, although whenever the compere tried to get the mood going with “are we ready to race Manchester?!” there was a deafening silence.  There was the general aroma of Bacon butties (HP are one of the sponsors of Movember and so all the runners got a free bacon butty at the end), Ralgex and portaloos.   Saying that, the portaloos were the warmest place to be; so they were actually a pleasure to use, in some sense.  A warm up with the British Military Fitness was planned at 09:45 before the race at 10:00.  The 10K race would set off 10 minutes

Just before the warm up started, my saviours arrived.  8 men dressed as nuns appeared over the hill.  Surely I could beat a nun? (Sorry, that didn’t really come out right.  You know what I mean).  The thing is that there is something intrinsically funny about men dressed as nuns.  If you have been watching “The Ginger, The Geordie and The Geek” on BBC 2 recently you will know exactly what I mean.  The sight of this bunch warming up on the hill was straight from Monty Python. After we had warmed up we headed off to the start line.  Some how (I still have no idea how) I ended up at the front.  I was effectively in
with the elite athletes.  Perhaps some of their eliteness might rub off   It didn’t, but it was a nice idea.

At 10:03 we were off and boy we were going at a pace!  A quick right and up a slight hill, then a left, up a bit more of a hill, then a right and…yep, you guessed it…another hill.  In fact the first half a kilometre was all uphill and we were all running it at our “show off” pace.  I quickly realised it was time to slow down.  As I got to the top of the hill I looked back and saw several hundred people behind me.  How long they were going to be there was another matter.  I’m sure I could feel hundreds of pairs of eyes looking at me thinking “well I can catch up with the
red faced fat man with the Sargent Major Moustache”.  Many of them went on to  achieve this.

At first I was overtaken by a selection lycra clad “proper” runners.  That was fine.  These people had obviously trained for longer than 2 weeks and this wasn’t their first run. But just as we were approaching the 1km mark, the rot started.  I was overtaken by somebody dressed as a Thunderbird.  Yep, he was in a full International Rescue uniform.  That was
bad enough, but the fact that he was running like a Thunderbird puppet and still beating me was demoralising.  Still I slogged on.  After the initial excitement of the first kilometre, boredom set in.  I didn’t bring my headphones so I was running without a beat, so I began trying to think of things to pass the time and distract me from the fact that my throat was burning and my heart was about to explode out of my chest.  I thought I might have a little look around, but that was depressing, as all I could see was another hill in front of me.  So I just resorted to eyes down and let’s get through this.

By the time I got to the 2km mark I had been passed by several men in tutus, Superman, Batman and a few mini-mos (i.e. children).  In between the second and third kilometres the inevitable happened.  The first of the 10K runners (who set off 10 minutes behind us) overtook me.  He was really going for it.  I did the courteous thing and moved
over.  I was also over taken by Mr & Mrs Zorro and got a stitch (which I have never had during my training).  But as yet, no nuns had passed me. Between the 3 and 4km mark the organisers had introduced a surprise element.  A mini ice rink.  The sun hadn’t reached this section of pathway and it was still frozen.  As I looked ahead (up another hill) I saw runners looking like Bambi on ice in orange headbands.  Most of us just abandoned the path and ran on the grass; it was safer. Just past this point my stitch had got worse, so begrudgingly I slowed down to a brisk walk.  A minute or so later a bloke ran past me who looked like he spent most of his life propping up a bar somewhere.  That was all the incentive I needed.  I began running again.  Still no nuns.

4km greeted us with another muddy field and suddenly a beautiful archway (Manchester people who know Heaton Park will know what I am talking  about).  In fact it was so nice, Mr & Mrs Zorro had stopped and were taking a picture of themselves under it.  They obviously weren’t going for a personal best on this race.  As we got to the bottom of the hill (although I am still convinced that we went up more hills than we came down) we were back at the lake.  At this point my stitch really kicked in again and I slowed down.  Suddenly I was overtaken by Mr & Mrs Zorro….and a nun!  Yes, the sisters of mercy had caught up with me with only half a kilometre to go.  The race was on!  One shot away from me, so I set my sights on at least catching the Zorros (or are 2 Zorros called Zorri?).  Just then another nun appeared.

At this point the biggest motivating factor in my life came into play.  Was raising awareness of testicular cancer the thing that kept me going? Nope.  Was it raising money for research into prostate cancer that kept my little fat legs moving? Nah.  It was the possibility that I could finish this race “second to nun” (See the Barcelona blog 5 Go Up A Hill In Barcelona to see the significance of this).  So with a new incentive in my life I tailed that nun for the last 400 meters all the way to the finish line. (Interestingly enough if I had looked behind me I would have seen that I was also being followed by another nun.  A sort of nun sandwich.  Forget I said that, that image is slightly disturbing).

 I had done it.  My time wasn’t brilliant (but the course was quite hilly, did I mention that?); but I was happy enough.  I had my free butty and Lucozade and few minutes later the first of the 10K runners came in.  We traipsed through the mud back to the car exhausted, but happy. The most important thing though was raising money.  If you have sponsored me, thank you.  If not, then you can head over to mobro.co/andrewfenner .  So will I do it again next year?  Probably, but I may put in a bit more than 2 weeks’ training!

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